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Backgammon Setup

When archeologists excavated the ruins of ancient Mesopotamia, they discovered sets similar to today’s backgammon, dating the game around 5,000 years old or more. So for a board game to endure this long, it’s gotta be easy to learn and awfully fun to play, right? Well, it’s high time you took a break from checkers and chess, and gave it a shot. With our easy-to-follow instructions to guide you, you’ll know everything you need to setup and win your first match.


Look at the board, what do you see? Two sides, four quadrants, and a track of six narrow triangles per quadrant. These triangles are called “points” and they throw the uninitiated for a loop! Let’s face it, the square sort of became the gold standard for board game spaces over the past few centuries. Well, don’t let backgammon’s dynamic play surface intimidate you. These points are nothing tricky at all, they’re just the spaces of the board.

The 12 points on each side are thought to be connected across one edge of the board to form a continuous horseshoe-shaped course, and are numbered from 1-24 to help guide you along this “track.” It’s important to imagine it as a track and view backgammon essentially as a race because getting all of your pieces to the finish is precisely how you’ll win!

There will be a pair of dice and two shades of checkers available. Each player starts out with 15 checkers in their team color and then arranges them on the points like so:

Designer Backgammon Set

Designer Backgammon Set

  • Two are placed on your 24-point
  • Three on your 8-point
  • Five on your 13-point
  • Five on your 6-point

Congrats! The board is set and you and your opponent are ready to play!

Object of the Game

The goal of backgammon is to get all of your checkers off the board before your opponent. Just imagine each of your checkers as a runner racing their way around a track in hopes of getting to the finish line. The first team to get all their checkers counterclockwise around the board to the final quadrant can start crossing that finish line and take their pieces off the board.

Moving Around the Board

For starters, you and your opponent will have a good ol’ fashioned roll-off. There are two die and each player takes one. Whoever rolls the highest number gets to pick up both die, roll again, and take the opening move of the game.

  • The numbers shown on the dice are the number of points you can move
  • You must make as many moves from a roll as possible. For example, if 2 and 5 are shown, then you’ll move a single viable checker two points, and another checker (or the same checker) five points toward the goal. No more, no less.
  • Move counterclockwise around the track.
  • Invest in a dice cup to prevent cheating

In a lot of games, if you roll doubles you get to roll again. Backgammon keeps it real and actually doubles your roll. Each die is used twice, making four moves in total! For example, if you roll a double 3, then you can move as many as four checkers by three points.

Signature Ash Multi-Game Table
Signature Ash Multi-Game Table
18 Inch Etched Teak Wood Folding Backgammon Set
18 Inch Etched Teak Wood Folding Backgammon Set
Uria stone Backgammon Checkers
Uria stone Backgammon Checkers

The Obstacles in Your Way

Conflict makes things interesting. When both opposing players travel counterclockwise from their own perspective, they’ll inevitably cross paths and even collide. Not every point is going to be easily accessible so keep these rules in mind:

  • You can move your pieces to a point already occupied by your pieces.
  • There’s no maximum number of checkers to a single point
  • You cannot move your piece to a point occupied by two or more of your opponent’s pieces.
  • If there are no available points to move to, you do not re-roll. You lose a turn.

Turn obstacles into an advantage and create barriers of your own, blocking your opponent from advancing. This is what makes backgammon so great: strategy.

Only the Lonely

A little bit of danger ups the challenge and excitement of any board game, and in backgammon just leaving a single checker vulnerable could lead to a world of hurt. That vacant row separating the sides of the board is called “The Bar” and this sad little dive is where your checkers go after a hard day.

  • If a point is only occupied by one of your enemy’s pieces, then you can land on this point and knock off the opponent’s checker.
  • A player’s knocked-off piece will go to the bar and restart from the beginning of the game on that next turn.
  • Sheesham Wood Folding Magnetic Backgammon Set
    Sheesham Wood Folding Magnetic Backgammon Set
    Complete Backgammon Accessory Kit with 1 in. Checkers
    Complete Backgammon Accessory Kit with 1 in. Checkers
    Genuine Black Leather 18 in. Backgammon Set
    Genuine Black Leather 18 in. Backgammon Set

The Buddy System

Here’s a great tip: If you want to minimize loss as much as possible, use the buddy system. The principle is about the same here as it was on your elementary school field trip: it’s safer to travel with a friend than by yourself. Progressing around the track in tandem isn’t the quickest route and it isn’t always going to be possible given your roll, but it’ll prevent opening yourself up to attack. Be sure to team your checkers together whenever possible on your way to the final quadrant.

Take-Off (Winning the Game)

Once you’ve successfully brought all of your pieces within the final six points on the board, you can begin the march to victory. But if you’ve made it this far then that means the way is clear for your enemy as well. The race is on!

  • Try to remove the farthest pieces to the goal first so you aren’t depending on a high roll in your final moments.
  • Remember, you have to make as many moves from your roll as possible. You can’t use a high roll to clear lower level points until the far-away checkers have been taken care of first.

Having come out victorious in your first backgammon game, you may catch what’s referred to as “Backgammon Fever.” This can never be cured, but it will be soothed by joining a backgammon club, making friendly wagers with other competitive backgammon fanatics at the local park, or participating in local and international tournaments.